A new friend of mine signed a book deal the other day, a pretty amazing accomplishment and you can see it all over her face beaming with gratitude and pride. It’s incredible to watch her dreams come true right before my eyes. I haven’t known her long and I barely know her even now, but I have been witness to her passion and gifting through her online accounts.
As I’ve gotten to watch her dream unfold, I started reflecting on my own path as a writer. It wasn’t too long ago I would have been triggered by her publishing accomplishment, it would have made me feel less than, unaccomplished in my own writing, and jealous.
Growth, true genuine growth, I am experiencing it in real time.
When I saw her news I felt something different, I felt relief. I realized that my goals have changed, my dreams have shifted, and what I once longed for is not a true reflection of what I ultimately desire for my own life. I do not have to write a book and frankly–as my many half written attempts would attest–I don’t want to write one. Don’t get me wrong I want to write (hello, that’s what I’m doing as I type this out) but my desire to write is not tied to a book deal or even a desire to spend my energy working to put a book proposal together.
This blog feels much more aligned with my personal goals and self expression at this time in my life and I am absolutely loving it. I have discovered that my art thrives in open fields and lack of plans, when the weight of specific expectations are removed I am free to create, explore and discover for the simple sake of doing what I love.
It’s a beautiful realization, a freeing one that led me to ask a bigger question, why has it taken me this long to realize I don’t actually care if I write a book or not?
The answer is clear to me now, I have been cultivating, manufacturing and designing the brand of me for so many years that at some point it became the definition of my very own identity. Follow me here, we are living in the explosive age of digital media and online content creation. Every single person with a footprint in the social space is cultivating a persona and perception of who they are. There is no escaping this, it’s the same way that when I decide what clothes I am going to put on today helps inform the persona of me that people interact with at the grocery store or gas station. We all have a persona, a certain style and personality because we are not robots… this is not a bad thing.
It’s when our focus shifts to curating a specific persona and personality online in an effort to define ourselves that gets a little sketchy. I thought I needed to write a book, I thought I “wanted” to write a book not because that in fact is something I ultimately desired, but because for years I have been unknowingly creating the brand of me online. The brand of Kate says, she’s a writer, dreamer, confident, life of the party type and those type of people speak on stages, write books, have successful businesses, and on and on and on. It’s been exhausting! This unknowing cultivation of my brand led me to make internal goals that I now realize are not things I actually want.
You know what I want now? I want to create art, my art, my words and my ideas written down for the sake of getting them on the page. I want to dream up a million ideas for businesses without feeling like I actually have to start one of them, I want to buy domain names and create websites for ideas I’ve had with no pressure to do anything else but to dream and create. Where did I learn that simply creating and activating in the things I dream up has to lead to something more?
This idea–for me to feel proud and successful meant I had to take an idea or dream and follow through and find public facing success to be validated–is wild to me on the other side of all this. Who cares? I mean, quick caveat to say that if your goal is to make a profit with your online persona and brand (which is a very real goal and possibility for today’s marketplace) then yeah, you better strategize, design and curate the brand you want people to follow and buy into that is marketing. But that’s not my goal for myself and I think some of us unknowingly fall into a trap that feels like we should define our goals and more drastically our identities based on what other people we share likeliness and interests with online are doing. It’s a complicated and warped system lurking beneath the subtext of social media.
You do not have to have a personal brand, branding isn’t something that is going to help you, it’s going to suffocate you and confuse you and lead you to define your identity by what you see and share on social media. You are not a business, you are a person, with real dreams, desires an a uniqueness that can only be defined by your own self discovery. And as a Jesus follower, my ultimate reflection of who I am and how I was created is reflected in the very thumbprint of the one who made me. It’s pretty simple when you break it down.
You know who does this really well online? It’s all our relatives we see posting pictures of their kid’s soccer game, or their date night out or coffee art with no intention to create any perception other than whats real in front of them. My first Instagram post ever is a photo of a fire in my fireplace with the tested and proven Nashville filter, I wasn’t trying to make any specific point when I posted it twelve years ago, I just liked the fire and wanted to share it with my friends. My sister Debbie does not care what people are assuming her brand is when she posts pictures of my niece and nephew, she just wants to share her adorable kids with her friends and family. This is the positive intent of social media, this is the good stuff we should be celebrating.
So I give up, the Kate brand has left the building and she’s over here deconstructing unrealistic expectations and unfounded dreams and discovering who she is, what makes her happy, what makes her feel most alive in herself. And she’s pursuing those things for herself and the people around her, and it’s freaking amazing, and freeing and wonderful.
I encourage you to take some time and ask yourself are my goals really what I ultimately desire? Or are they goals because it’s what someone else I scroll past on social media found success in and so that should be my path? Are your dreams actual dreams or are they a curated version of a dream that you unknowingly follow? I don’t care if your dream is the same as your online inspiration or a real life person that you look up to, that’s mentorship. I care that you know the root of your dream and that it is in fact an actual reflection of the things that you desire.
I want you to allow yourself the space to discover who you actually are aside from who you’re branding yourself to be. Be free my friends, it’s a heck of a way to live and I highly recommend it.